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Blue Raiders boys soccer wins twice, makes playoffs



By Mitch Spear
For the Press And Journal

The Blue Raiders boys soccer team won two games last week to enter the District 3 playoffs seeded No. 8.

The Raiders (12-6) started their playoff push against divisional foe Trinity, seeded No. 9, on Tuesday night at home at 6:30 p.m. Trinity and Middletown split their regular season games this year, setting up a rubber match. The winner gets rewarded by playing top ranked and undefeated Tulpehocken (18-0) on Saturday, Oct. 29 for the District III quarterfinals.

Middletown 7,
James Buchanan 3

Middletown got off to a fast start Monday, Oct. 17, with two chances within the first three minutes of the game. However, it was not until a nice sequence of passes that started from the midfield that the Blue Raiders scored. Jacob Spear found Connor Golden making the run up the right flank that was neatly crossed back to David Alcock, standing square of goal frame. Alcock finished well to get the Raiders on the board to lead 1-0.

The Rockets tied it up, but minutes later, the Raiders pulled ahead once again with a ball placed near post from Griffin Meyer after working through the rocket defense. It didn’t take long for the Rockets to pull even once again, however, when Isaac Schenton found some room to look up and strike from about 35 yards out, placing the ball in the bottom right corner to tie it at 2. 

The 3-2 advantage came from the work of Tyler Clingan, who was fouled in the box. The pursuing penalty kick was taken by Connor Gambini who waited patiently until Sean Martin dove to his left, while Gambini shot the ball in the newly vacated area in center of the goal.

The next score came from Thomas Einolf shooting far post after receiving a nice service ball from Donovan Brady. Middletown extended their lead to a 5-2 count when Ian Guckavan found a seam in the Rockets defense and made a nicely timed run to get beyond their trap. Beating the trap, Guckavan neatly finished the one on one versus the goalie coming off his line.

The second half resulted in two more goals, one from each team. The Rockets’ pulled back within three, compliments of Schenton’s hat trick, who played a terrific contest. The game ended 7-3 when Spear received the ball at the corner of the 18 as a result of Conner Golden’s high press. Spear after receiving the ball dribbled directly to the near post and shot the ball far post.
Middletown keeper Thomas Lee had 6 saves.

Middletown 3,
Bishop McDevitt 2

The Raiders finished the regular season at home against the Crusaders of Bishop McDevitt on Wednesday night. A win would likely mean hosting a first round playoff game. With a loss,; they would either start the playoffs on the road or potentially run the dangers of missing district playoffs.
Fortunately for the Raiders, they started strong and were able to tally first. The goal was the result of a service ball from Spear to Blake Gill who found a little room between two Crusader defenders. Gill struck the ball well far post giving Middletown the early one goal advantage.

The advantage held throughout the first half, despite several good chances from both teams. The Crusaders pulled even, but minutes later, the Crusaders took the lead when Nick Minnich buried the attempt, giving the Crusaders the goal advantage.

The deficit just seemed to make the Raiders work harder and press higher. The efforts paid off quickly with the Raiders drawling even when Conner Golden whipped in a pretty ball to the head of Nate Nelson timing his run far post. Nelson’s header evened the score and energized the crowd and the Blue Raiders.

The Raiders got the game-winner when Conner Golden pressured the left defensive back and Gabe Keller in goal came off his line to challenge for the ball. Golden was able to side step the defender and get a slight touch of the ball off the outside of his foot that redirected the ball’s trajectory around the charging Keller. The spinning ball was slowed, but had enough pace to beat the Crusader defense running back to attempt a clear on the ball heading towards the empty net to make it 3-2, Raiders.

Junior varsity

The junior varsity ended the season with a record of 12-2-2.

In their last game, vs. Bishop McDevitt, the Raiders scored first when an elevated cross from Billy Cleland glanced off the head of a Crusader defender and to the head of Clayton Wagner who guided the ball far post for the Raider 1-0 lead.

In the second half, with less than 14 minutes remaining Dane Ebersole stood tall and made a terrific save by pushing what seemed to be for certain a Crusaders goal just over the net.

Minutes later, the Raiders doubled their lead when Ben Knisely made a nice pass to Griffin Meyer, who volleyed the bouncing ball from about 20 yards out over the keeper’s head to his right and just under the crossbar. The Crusaders eventually broke onto the scorecard, when a nice cross from Nick Minnich found the head of Mitchell Ward and was sent back across the goal mouth for the 2-1 final.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 October 2016 15:59

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Falcons upend CV, keep hopes for playoffs alive

DSC 9722 edited 1Photos by John Diffenderfer -- The Cumberland Valley defense likely got tired of seeing Lower Dauphin running back Brendan Shaffer carry the ball Friday night. Here, he takes off on his 80-yard touchdown run.

It hasn’t been the most memorable of seasons for the Lower Dauphin football team, where trips to the playoffs have been the norm in recent years.

That all changed Friday night, thanks in large part to 263 rushing yards and two touchdowns from Falcons junior running back Brendan Shaffer, as Lower Dauphin defeated visiting Cumberland Valley.

The Falcons were only 3-4 entering Friday night’s game hosting Cumberland Valley. CV was 6-1 overall playing in the Mid-Penn Commonwealth Division.

But now, standing at 4-4 on the season and 2-2 in the Mid-Penn Keystone Division, they have a new outlook.

The playoffs suddenly aren’t out of the question.

Lower Dauphin head coach Greg Kratzer said Monday that “there’s a shot, but we have to handle our business,” adding that several teams ahead of them in the playoff race lost over the weekend, and some teams still have tough games ahead.

The Falcons have their own challenge this weekend, going up against Bishop McDevitt, which is 4-1 in the Mid-Penn Keystone and 5-3 overall. They finish the season with Hershey, which is 1-3 in the Keystone and 1-7 overall.

But all the playoff talk wouldn’t be possible without the big win Friday.

The Falcons got on the board first in the second quarter, with a 33-yard field goal by Clyde Tamburro.

They took a 9-0 lead in the third quarter when Shaffer ran 21 yards for a touchdown.

Cumberland Valley cut that lead to 9-3 when Ridge Bachman kicked a 23-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.

The play of the game happened right after that 17-play drive that led to the Bachman field goal. It was a drive on which Shaffer had played every down defensively.

DSC 9660 edited 1Cole Etchberger upends a Cumberland Valley runner.

“The coaches were saying to put Cole Etchberger in to give him a blow,” Kratzer said of Shaffer.

But Shaffer told his coach that he was fine.

“He’s the kind of player who doesn’t want to leave the field,” he said.

The decision to leave him in paid off handsomely.

Shaffer ripped off an 80-yard run on the first play to put the score at 15-3. He took the handoff from Ryan Kutz and went nearly untouched up the left sideline, beating the last defender at the Cumberland Valley 25.

CV wouldn’t go quietly. Charlie Katshir hauled in a 20-yard pass from Ridge Bachman to make it 15-10 with less than 5 minutes left. But the Falcons would hang on for the victory.
Kratzer said it wasn’t only Shaffer’s offense that impressed him.

“Defensively, he seemed to be in on every play,” Kratzer said.

In fact, the story of the game in his view was the defense. CV had several long drives, but the Lower Dauphin defense prevented them from capitalizing with a “bend but don’t break” approach.

Etchberger had two interceptions, including one in the end zone.

Despite Shaffer’s big game, Kratzer said it was a team win, with the offense controlling the ball on the ground, the defense holding CV to one touchdown, and special teams dominating the return game.

The team played with the “youthful exuberance” he wants to see, the attitude they showed in wins vs. Cedar Crest, Red Land and Mechanicsburg, he said.

“When we think too much and play tight, we get into trouble,” he said, adding that he wants to see emotion and excitement out of his players.

The Falcons got the win without having almost any air attack. Kutz and Aidan Klassen shared quarterback duties, combining to go just 4 of 6 for 23 yards in the air. Lower Dauphin had only 298 total yards.

But with Shaffer running like he did, Kratzer said the game planned evolved as Lower Dauphin succeeded on the ground. He ended up with 27 carries.

“We were hurting ourselves if we stopped doing that,” he said of the running attack.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 October 2016 14:01

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HOME SWEET HOME: Boiling Springs puts up little resistance as Blue Raiders win

image017Photos by Bill Darrah -- Tyreer Mills runs past the Bubblers defense for a touchdown.

With a huge game looming this week against Milton Hershey, the Middletown football team got little resistance from visiting Boiling Springs in Saturday’s Homecoming contest at windy, chilly War Memorial Field.

The 42-6 victory, the Blue Raiders’ eighth straight and second Homecoming victory in a row, set the stage for what could turn out to be the Mid-Penn Capital Division’s game of the year.

The Raiders will face the Spartans at Henry Hershey Field on Friday night in a battle of division unbeaten teams. Milton Hershey, with just one loss on its record, is coming off a big win over Trinity heading into this weekend’s showdown.

For the Blue Raiders, the romp over the winless Bubblers was so complete that none of the offensive or defensive starters played a down in the second half. Not one to look ahead, coach Brett Myers still agreed that a tougher game would have been more beneficial for his players as they prepped for the upcoming clash at Milton Hershey. “But,” he said, “It was good to get our JV players on the field for the second half.”

“They made a nice, goal line stand, too,” he added, referring to a third-quarter stop at the 1 yard line.

The Bubblers finally scored against the reserves with just 27 seconds left in the game. Up until that point the visitors had victimized themselves with numerous mistakes, but were also victimized by the superior play of the Middletown squad.

It did not take long for the home team to establish its dominance. Four plays into the game quarterback Chase Snavely hooked up with junior receiver Tyreer Mills on a 42-yard touchdown pass that got the Raiders rolling. Mills got open near the 20, where he pulled in Snavely’s spot-on throw. From there, it was no contest as Mills raced to the end zone. Donovan Brady’s kick made it a 7-0 lead with 10:02 on the clock.

On Boiling Springs’ ensuing possession Jonah McCoy broke up a third down pass to force a Bubbler punt.

Mills caused more excitement when he returned the kick for an apparent touchdown. But a penalty erased the scoring run. It did not matter, however, as the Blue Raiders scored on the very next play when freshman running back Jose Lopez ran around the left side, picked up blocks down field and turned the sweep into a dazzling 63-yard touchdown sprint. With 8:04 still left in the first quarter, the Raiders led 14-0. Things simply got worse for the visitors after that.

On second and 9, Bubbler quarterback Evan Mancuso fumbled and Middletown’s Laron Woody recovered for the Raiders at the Boiling Springs’ 15 yard line. After Jaelen Thompson ran for 6 yards on first down, Brady Fox followed the lead block of Justin Mayersky into the end zone for Middletown’s third touchdown. There was still 6:22 left in the first period and the Raiders had expanded their lead to 21-0.

Trying to get back into the game, the Bubblers’ offense picked up 8 yards on a pair of runs, but lost a yard on third down and again were forced to punt.

Picking up the ball off a bounce at the 26 on the left side, Mills crossed to the right, picked up the necessary blocks from his teammates and blazed his way to the south end zone for a 74-yard touchdown return that padded the lead to 28-0.

The visitors did manage to pick up a pair of first downs on their ensuing possession before the Middletown defense shut off the drive. After losing 7 yards on two plays and facing a third and 17, the drive was stopped when linebacker Blake Jacoby dropped Josh Otto well short of the marker.

The Middletown offense lost a fumble on the first drive of the second quarter but the visitors could not cash in on the turnover. Instead a botched punt attempt gave the ball back to the Raiders at the Boiling Springs 34. Runs by Fox and Thompson moved the ball to the Bubblers’ 1 yard line before a high snap from center cost the Raiders 34 yards all the way back out to the 37.

Undaunted, the Raiders went 21 yards on a Snavely-to-Tre Leach pass connection that set up another touchdown by Mills. This one came on a 15-yard pass with 2:48 left in the first half. Brady’s PAT upped the Middletown advantage to 35-0 and pretty much iced the win for the Blue Raiders.

image044Photos by Bill Darrah -- Blake Jacoby and Kyle Truesdale shut down the Bubblers’ run game.

On Boiling Springs’ following possession, Kyle Truesdale, Haden Landis, Hunter Landis and Bob Grahem led the defense that forced another punting situation for the Bubblers.
And the Bubblers hurt themselves once more when an errant snap was chased down by kicker Otto at the 2 yard line.

Snavely went into the end zone on a keeper at 1:37 that gave the Raiders a 42-0 halftime cushion. And that pretty much ended the day for the Middletown starters.

In the second half, with the mercy clock running, the Raider reserves took over and the defense preserved the shutout until the waning seconds of the game.

The Raiders nearly gave up a score late in the third after the Bubblers had taken possession of the ball at the Middletown 24. The opportunity came for the visitors when a punt attempt by Tristan Maxwell went wrong.

But the Raiders held when Kaiden Karper was stopped at the one by several Middletown defenders.

Early in the fourth quarter, Antonio Gamble, Lopez and Edwin Figueroa moved the ball before a big run by Lamar Ventura was wiped out by a holding penalty. Later, with 2:29 left in the game, the Bubblers, lifted by a 40-yard pass play, broke into the scoring column with a 15-yard touchdown down pass that broke up the shutout.

Next Up: The Blue Raiders travel to Henry Hershey Field to take on the Milton Hershey Spartans 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 October 2016 11:58

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5th Blue Raider cross country runner makes districts

The Middletown cross country teams traveled to Big Spring High School for the Mid-Penn League Championships on Saturday, and another runner qualified for districts. Zach Malay District QualifierZach Malay

Tanner AlbrightTanner Albright

The first Raider to cross the finish in the boys meet was Justin Shaffer in a time of 18:01, which is his personal best. He was the 76th overall finisher. The next Blue Raider was Dan Brenner (19:45), followed by Zach Malay (19:46), Caleb Ocker (19:52), Tanner Albright (20:53), Mark Cowan (22:37), Brayden Erickson (21:20), Kenny Britcher (24:41) and Jacob Buffington (22:09, a personal best).

Maddie GarberMaddie Garber

Malay became the fourth boy to qualify for the District 3 championships, joining Justin Shaffer, Caleb Ocker, Dan Brenner, and Jaleena Marrero of the girl’s team.

The boys team finished ahead of the teams from Bishop McDevitt, Susquehanna Township, and Carson Long Academy. This avenges a loss by the score of 19-51 from the Bishop McDevitt squad in September.

In the girls championship, the Blue Raiders were led by Jaleena Marrero, in a time of 22:09 (73rd finisher overall). Other finishers included Maddie Garber (25:06) and Angela Hernandez (25:54).

Mark CowanMark Cowan

“I feel very good about the progress of our team,” coach Pete Fox said. “Our runners have shown resiliency and determination in reaching a place where we can be competitive with established programs. I’m proud of our runners and grateful for the hard work of my assistant coaches, Jesse Woodrow and Tim Ebersole.”

Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 October 2016 12:26

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Blue Raiders’ boys soccer team wins two of three

HS soccer vs Redland 368Photo by Debbie Spear -- Griffin Meyer and Connor Gambini go up for the ball as Tyrelle Gallatin-Scott watches in action vs. Red Land.

By Mitch Spear
For the Press And Journal

The Middletown boys soccer team won two of its three games last week as it continues it push for the playoffs.

The Blue Raiders stood at 10-6 overall and 7-6 in the Mid-Penn Conference Capital Division after last week’s action.

Milton Hershey 2, Middletown 0

Milton Hershey started strong in the game Tuesday, Oct. 11, and within the first eight minutes generated a chance that was headed on frame that Thomas Lee had to push over the crossbar to keep the game scoreless. Just seconds later, another ball toward the Raider goal was unsuccessfully punched out of the goal box. After several bounces the ball fell to the foot of Austin Padmore of Milton Hershey to put the Spartans up one.

The Spartans added to their lead when Jide Olidipo passed the ball to David Fisher who placed a beautifully lofted ball over the head of Lee standing a few yards off the goal line.
With the Spartan lead at two, the Raiders began to apply tremendous pressure. The Spartans young goalkeeper, freshman Josh Parra, finished the game with a hard-earned shutout as he faced 30 shots, most of which occurred in the second half. Multiple shots required spectacular saves from close range, including several improbable kick saves.

Middletown 3,
Susquehanna Township 1

With the losing streak at three games, the Raiders looked to return to winning form at Susquehanna Township on Thursday.

In the 22nd minute Thomas Einolf provided a good service ball to Conner Golden from about 40 yards out from goal. Golden’s first touch was a good one, and was able to set up a successful strike far post beyond Alex MacMilan, in goal for the Indians.

HS soccer vs ST 420Photo by Debbie Spear -- Brothers Cole and Conner Golden create the “Golden Wall” in a defensive play vs. Susquehanna Township.

Perhaps the most important moment in the game came late in the first half when a penalty kick was awarded to the Indians. However, the heavy shot struck the inside of the post but stayed out of net and took a strong carom out of the box, ending any chance of the Indians following the rebound for a second attempt.

The second half started with better pressure and possession from the Raiders, but did not generate any significant goal scoring opportunities. Einolf recorded his second assist in the game following a direct kick that was well taken to find David Alcock standing a few yards from goal to put the Raiders up 2-0.

The third Raider goal came when Blake Gill worked to dispossess the Indians and turned defense to instant offense as he sliced up a ball to Einolf standing wide open far post.
Lee had to make a big save with less than 10 minutes remaining as he pushed an Indians’ attempt just over the crossbar. With five minutes remaining, a second penalty kick was issued to Susquehanna Township. Tyger Evans buried the shot for the 3-1 final and a Raider victory.

Middletown 3, Red Land 1

The first goal of the game Saturday vs. non-division opponent Red Land came the Raiders way when Jacob Spear was fouled from behind. Spear found David Alcock at the 18-yard mark and passed to Nate Nelson who quickly passed to Thomas Einolf who found some space on the left flank. Following a nice sequence of passing, Einolf dribbled towards the keeper, who made the initial save but the ball bounced back to the body of Einolf and into the goal for the Raider 1-0 lead.

Red Land with three minutes left in the first half got the equalizer after a defensive turnover lead to the ball finding Chad Stout of Red Land who shot beyond the reach of Lee.
In the early part of the second half, Griffin Meyer made a good run on the left side of goal and drew with him two defenders. This freed up Tyrelle Gallatin-Scott standing just a few yards out near the center of goal to receive the pass from Meyer a take the shot that regained the Raiders lead at 2-1.

The third goal came when Gallatin-Scott was fouled about 30 yards out. Donovan Brady took the direct kick. He shot low and hard beyond the Red Land keeper who had just entered the game as a result of disciplinary action to the starting goaltender.

Junior varsity

The Raiders junior varsity team ended the week with three more victories to improve to 11-2-2. They beat Milton Hershey, 7-1, with two goals by Ben Knisely and individual goals by Joe Cuneo, Billy Cleland, Griffin Meyer, Jacob Idowu and Derrick Miller.

They followed this offensive output with a 5-2 victory over Susquehanna Township. The Raiders earned goals from Meyer, Cuneo, Knisely and Clayton Wagner as well as one own goal.

They finished the week with a 5-1 victory over Redland. Meyers started off the scoring, followed by goals from Cuneo (2), Gallatin-Scott and Wagner.

The JV team finishes its season Wednesday night against the Crusaders of Bishop McDevitt.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 October 2016 11:55

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